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God's Strange Work: William Miller and the End of the World (Library of Religious Biography) [Paperback]

By David L. Rowe (Author) & Mark Noll (Foreword by)
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Item description for God's Strange Work: William Miller and the End of the World (Library of Religious Biography) by David L. Rowe & Mark Noll...

Calvinist Baptist preacher William Miller (1782-1849) was the first prominent American popularizer of using biblical prophecy to determine a specific and imminent time for Christ's return to earth. On October 22, 1844, he and his followers gathered to await a Second Coming that never came. Nonetheless, David Rowe argues, Miller was in many ways a mainstream, even typical figure of his time. Reflecting Rowe's meticulous research throughout, God's Strange Work does more than tell one man's remarkable story. It encapsulates the broader history of American Christianity in the time period and sets the stage for many significant later developments - the founding of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the tenets of various well-known new religious movements, and even the enduring American fascination with end-times prophecy. Rowe rescues Miller from the fringes and places him where he rightly belongs - in the center of American religious history.

Publishers Description
The first scholarly biography of one of the 19th century's most intriguing figures Husband, father, farmer, scribe, and war veteran, William Miller is best remembered as the first American popularizer of end-times prophecy. In this well-researched account of Miller's life, Rowe rescues him from the fringes and places him at the center of American religious history.

Citations And Professional Reviews
God's Strange Work: William Miller and the End of the World (Library of Religious Biography) by David L. Rowe & Mark Noll has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
  • Chronicle of Higher Education - 10/17/2008 page 22

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
Pages   249
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.9" Width: 5.9" Height: 0.8"
Weight:   0.85 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jul 1, 2008
Publisher   Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
Series  Library Of Religious Biography  
ISBN  0802803806  
ISBN13  9780802803801  

Availability  1 units.
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More About David L. Rowe & Mark Noll

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! David L. Rowe (M.S., Ph.D., M.Div.) is a professor and the dean of spiritual life at Salt Lake Theological Seminary. He teaches courses in homiletics and communication, spiritual formation, cross-cultural ministry, worship theology, and biblical studies. He lives in Utah.

David L. Rowe currently resides in Murfreesboro, in the state of Tennessee.

David L. Rowe has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Library of Religious Biography

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Reviews - What do customers think about God's Strange Work: William Miller and the End of the World (Library of Religious Biography)?

misses the mark  Apr 1, 2009
If you write about about Mozart or Elvis Presley, it is almost certain that your readers will have heard their music, and hence will know what all the fuss was about. There will be no need to explain how great the music was. In this case, by contrast, we needed a little more explanation of the relevant biblical prophecies and Miller's interpretation of them. In other words, Rowe does not explain Miller's teachings well enough for the reader to understand what all the fuss was about.

By contrast, Rowe labors extensively over how Miller's youthful Arminianism evolved into Calvinism, but this is irrelevant to Miller's teachings and to why he became the leader of a movement.

Another problem is that Rowe seems unreasonably troubled by argumentative writing and deems Miller's writing to be evidence of character defects such as "anger" (p. 132) and "paranoia" (p. 133) when it is nothing of the sort. On page 132, he asserts that "anger was also steering Miller", then quotes writings that struck me as indicative more of sadness than anger. They certainly did not support Rowe's conclusion that anger was "steering" Miller. Likewise, Miller's estimation of who were his most strident critics seems to me dead-on accurate, certainly not paranoid.

In this same passage (pp. 132 - 136) in which Rowe slips needlessly and groundlessly into defamation, Rowe asserts that Miller "crossed the border between messenger and prophet." The basis for this assertion is Miller's interpration of the sixth trumpt of Revelation as being fulfilled by the Ottoman Empire, and the calculation that the 391 prophetic days/literal years would come to an end in 1840. This interpretation was largely the work of Josiah Litch, not Miller, but even if it had been solely Miller's it was an interpretation of biblical prophecy, not a new prophecy rendering Miller a prophet.

Rowe also erroneously contends that the fact that the Ottoman Empire did not fall in 1840 was universally seen as a failed prophecy and an embarrasment. He calls it a "debacle." (p. 176) In fact, although the Ottoman Empire did not fall in 1840, four European powers dictated terms to the Sultan as to how his conflict with Egypt would be settled. The letter conveying these terms was delivered in August 1840, which is when Litch had been predicting the end of the 391 days/years. Litch interpreted this as fulfilling the prophecy, in part because he dated the beginning of this prophetic period not from the fall of Constantinople in 1453, but from 1449, when the Ottomans interceded to resolve an issue of Byzantine succession. So there was a neat parallelism in the beginning and ending of the prophetic period: demarcated not by an absolute fall, but by a weakening to the point where old enemies were dictating terms. According to Loughborough, many saw Litch's interpretation as a great success, not as a failure and an embarrassment. But Rowe mentions none of this, even to debunk it, even though he is well aware of these issues. This is sloppy at best, borderline dishonest at worst.

After acknowledging that in the years leading up to 1844, Miller was maintaining an incredibly taxing regimen of traveling and lecturing, Rowe all but accuses Miller of malingering. In fact, considering Miller's age and the difficulty of travel in those days, Miller was keeping up a killing pace. He had a painful condition called Erysipelas, which causes boils and sores on the skin. Yet Rowe writes that "a certain hypochondria was not unknown among people finding themselves thrust into public notice" and "Erysipelas is uncomfortable and sometimes painful but does not usually threaten death. Unless other undiagnosed diseases were troubling him, it is difficult to understand why it proved so debilitating." Aside from the fact that Rowe is not qualified to engage in such remote psychiatric diagnosis, that he would do so reveals a pettiness, a smallness of character, an attempt to build himself up by tearing his subject down.

I appreciate the scholarship that went into this book, but it misses the mark. The power and persuasiveness of Miller's teaching and preaching are not conveyed, and the criticisms of Miller seem contrived in an effort to achieve a tone that Rowe's academic colleagues will find acceptable.

A Benchmark Biography  Sep 8, 2008
As a historian of American religion and Adventism I am pleased with this new biography of William Miller. Rowe is the first person I am aware of to meticulously go through all of Miller's extant papers--in places as diverse as Aurora University, Colgate Seminary in Rochester, and the papers discovered in the William Miller home now owned by Adventist Heritage Ministry. Rowe, who is not an adherent of any of the Adventist traditions, has done Miller and the story of Adventism a great service by demythologizing apologetics and hagiography and presenting Miller within his historical, cultural, and religious milieu. Some Seventh-day Adventists may be surprised as they read this biography to learn that Miller never became a Sabbatarian, yet I think an adherent of any Adventist tradition will find this a sympathetic yet compelling biography of the founder of a major religious movement. What is surprising is that no historian has written a biography sooner. The good news is that this biography was worth the wait!

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